Over the last century, plastic has become part of everyday life. The problem with plastic is that most of it isn’t biodegradable, it doesn’t naturally breakdown like paper or food. Our plastic waste has invaded the deepest oceans and the highest mountains. Nobody knows how long it will take to disappear, but it will be hundreds of years, at least.

Plastics are mostly made from fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and even coal. The extraction of these planet-warming fuels will continue, so long as we demand plastic in unforgivable quantities.

But plastic is not always the enemy. It has many great purposes such as in car production for bumpers, interior dashes and seating. Or for household items such as TVs, kettles, chopping boards and even your food waste recycling bin! These items have a significant shelf life though and will (or at least should) be used for many years.

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The big issue is disposable plastics, otherwise known as single-use plastics, of which represents about 40% of all plastic produced. Cheap single-use plastics are items such as bottles and carrier bags, that you may often see polluting our hedgerows and rivers within the borough. Not only are they unsightly, but these pollutants can harm local wildlife, and travel by river to sea and frighteningly enter our food chain. In fact, small pieces of plastic have been detected in beer, salt, seafood and human stools.

We are becoming a plastic planet. But we don’t have to – if we reduce our plastic consumption, reuse where we can and recycle the rest, we will be well on our way to a cleaner and more sustainable future.

plastic bottles
Let’s reduce single-use plastics and choose reusable alternatives

From its first use in mass-production in the early 20th century, it’s now everywhere, from our food packaging to our clothes. It’s versatile and cheap. This has made it so popular in the last 50 years that its production has sky-rocketed.

Around 335 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year. We take it for granted, but plastic is a finite resource. One day, it really will run out.

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To help make the most of plastic already in circulation, Chelmsford City Council offer recycling collection services for a wide variety of plastic packaging, from households, flats, businesses and even street recycling bins. And because they require plastics and cartons to be separated from other materials, it means that they are able to accept more types of packaging too, such as film, yoghurt pots and plastic bags. For a full list of which plastics they accept, please visit their website (but please come back and finish reading this page!)

Victorian landfill waste
What did we do before plastic?

The main thing to remember is that if we all do our bit to reduce our personal plastic footprint, we’ll be a huge step closer in helping to solve the problem with plastic. Here’s a few tips to help make some simple changes that you can make to help:

–  Buy from ‘packaging-free’ food shops – This is a fantastic way to lighten your carbon footprint and support local independent businesses. Take your jars and fill up on essential dry foods like flour, oats or sugar. Have a search online for your nearest ‘Packaging Free’ shop in Chelmsford: You may be surprised at how many there are now.
–  Buy a reusable coffee cup and/or water bottle – Try to keep it with you when you’re out and about in daily life. Every plastic bottle adds up – and you can get discounts in many coffee shops for using your own cup. You could also consider reusable cutlery and metal straws.

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–  Give up on wet wipes – Wet wipes are single-use plastics that last lifetimes in the natural environment (predicted to be 500 years). Try using reusable cloth or flannel, or some water and some ultra-gentle toilet paper (depending on what you’re using them for…!) instead of ‘flushable’ wipes.
–  Pick skincare and cleaning products that have refillable packs – Refillables are important as often the spray systems in these types of bottles aren’t recyclable and they go straight to landfill. By reusing the original bottle and refilling it from a larger bottle you can keep your home and your environment clean at the same time! It’s much cheaper too – and you can get really pretty reusable soap dispensers and so on if you wish.

Please watch the video at the top of this page for more ideas.

glass reusable jars
I can’t save the planet on my own!

If you don’t have the money or the ability to make the changes we talk about on this page, please don’t worry, the weight of the world is not on your shoulders. It’s important to point out that with all environmentally friendly choices that your best is always enough. This is not to say that we don’t all have a responsibility to make changes, but if your financial situation is your limiting factor then it’s okay that waste reduction and recycling is not your priority.